States Chess Cup: Playoffs

States Cup Bracket


Wild Card Matches   

With brackets set from the regular season, playoffs began with the first round featuring two wildcard matches: Virginia vs. Minnesota, and Georgia vs. California-South.   

Virginia and Minnesota both brought very similar rosters, with each state having three strong masters and a very underrated fourth board. Virginia, however, won the match convincingly by a score of 11-5, as all four players put in a great day, each scoring above 50% against a Minnesota roster with an average rating of 2195. Virginia NMs Nemanja Milanovic and Isaac Spense, as well as FM Jason Morefield all scored 3/4.      

California-South turned in its own decisive victory over Georgia, with a final score of 11.5-4.5. California-South was led by IM Keaton Kiewra, who went 4-0 as the top board. NM Serkan Salik and the very underrated Hursh Mehta both scored 3/4.    

Divisional Matches  

The second round featured pairings of Michigan vs. New Jersey, Virginia vs. California-South, Iowa vs. Illinois, and California-North vs Washington.    

Michigan built up a healthy lead over New Jersey, heading into the final round with a 7.5-4.5 score. As the higher seed, Michigan held draw odds and only needed a half-point in the fourth round to clinch the match. However, New Jersey proved undeterred by its slim chances, and rallied to win three games of its games. Michigan, however, was saved by this miracle draw from FM Mark Heimann against New Jersey GM Mac Molner.   

[pgn][Event "States Chess Cup, MI vs NJ (Playoffs)"] [Site ""] [White "Mackenzie Molner (NJ)"] [Black "Mark Heimann (MI)"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [UTCDate "2020.11.21"] [UTCTime "18:02:37"] [Variant "Standard"] [ECO "B81"] [Opening "Sicilian Defense: Scheveningen Variation, Keres Attack"] [Annotator ""] { This was the last round of the match. Our team was up 7.5-4.5 and had draw odds, as the tiebreaks for the division championships were based on the regular season standings (on which we would come out ahead). Thus, to advance in the playoffs, all we had to do in this round was not get swept... } 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 { As a little joke, I faked Mac out a bit with the move order (I played 5...Bb4 when we played in the first round of the States Chess Cup) before transposing into a Scheveningen Sicilian. Lately I've been having some fun playing some "forgotten" Sicilian variations, as at rapid time controls they can lead to enjoyable positions. } 6. g4 { The Keres Attack is the big reason why the Scheveningen is no longer in favor, and players who wish to play similar positions usually angle for them from a Najdorf move order. However, that doesn't mean that White is automatically winning, or that the resulting positions can't be interesting for both sides to play (particularly at fast time controls when there isn't time to work through all the details). } 6... h6 7. h4 Nc6 8. Rg1 h5 9. gxh5 Nxh5 { According to the last time I checked the theory (more years ago than I care to admit, but I imagine it was the same for Mac since like I said, this is not considered to be a critical Sicilian line these days), this is main line. } 10. Bg5 Qb6 11. Ndb5 a6 12. Nxd6+? { Knowing that inviting the Keres is a very provocative way to play, Mac chooses an aggressive sacrificial continuation. There are certainly ways for Black to get checkmated quickly, but with best play I believe he can take the material and hunker down successfully. (Note that the operative word is "best play" ) } 12... Bxd6 13. Qxd6 Qxb2 14. Kd2 Qxa1 15. Bb5 { (15. Nb5 looks dangerous, with the idea that 15...axb5 16. Bxb5 discovers an attack on the queen and, by pinning the knight on c6, threatens mate on e7/d8 while also stopping the Black queen from coming back to defend with 16...Qd4+. However, 15...f6 and the Black king will hide safely on f7 and leave White with too little to show for the heavy sacrifices he has made.) } 15... Qxc3+ 16. Kxc3 axb5 { Black has a rook and two pieces for the queen (plus a pawn and some damage done to White's pawn structure). It is worth noting that White has good control of the dark squares, and it is hard to break White's grip securely: ...f6 is possible, but then the knight on h5 is precarious and the g-pawn becomes weak. So while Black should be much better, it is worth noting that he has nontrivial problems to solve. In a rapid game, this opens up significant practical possibilities for White and pitfalls for Black (as we shall see... ) } 17. Kb2 f6 18. Be3 Ne5 19. Kb1 Nc4 20. Qc7 Nxe3 21. fxe3 { Black has further damaged White's pawn structure and left him with only two pieces left to attack...unfortunately, those two pieces can still do some serious damage if Black isn't careful... } 21... O-O? { I should have played something like 21...e5 to stop White's own advance first. I thought my pieces could patch up my kingside, but a few moves later would show what I missed. } 22. e5 fxe5 23. Qxe5 Rf5 24. Qc7 e5?? { Now the looseness of my knight and fragility of my little remaining king cover prove decisive. } 25. e4 { 25. Qe7, threatening Qe8+ and winning the knight after the rook is forced away by a subsequent e4, is actually decisive. Technically, I can save myself by retreating to f8. But the above line showed what I was missing the whole time... } 25... Rf7 26. Qd8+ Kh7 27. Qe8 { ...the play on the e8 square. Oof. White now wins material and Black's king remains hopelessly exposed, giving White what should be a decisive advantage. When Mac and I played at the beginning of the season, our game had a similar finish: I had an objectively great opening from another obscure Sicilian variation, but some lingering coordination problems of mine and resourceful attacking possibilities conjured up by Mac eventually provoked a decisive blunder from me. I thought this was going to be a repeat of that game, and at the worst possible of times. I was laughing darkly inside. } 27... Be6 { At this point, White can just take my rook on a8 which is likely objectively best, but I assumed that White would a) know that he should be winning whichever free material he takes, and b) not want to worry about various fortress-y constructions with a bishop on c4, knight on f4, etc. So I figured he'd take on e6, and I'd rather give up the bishop than the knight that helps hold my kingside together. } 28. Qxe6 Rf6 29. Qxe5 { Engine says >+7 to White here. But we know that funny things can happen in rapid games, and from here on sheer will to not lose kept me hanging on long enough for funny things to start happening. } 29... Nf4 30. h5 Raf8 31. Qxb5 b6 32. Qg5 Ne6 33. Qg4 Rh6 34. e5 Rf4 { At this point, Mac has won seemingly a million extra pawns to go with his queen vs rook and knight, and of course my king remains exposed. However, White doesn't have a clear breakthrough (it's hard to create a passed pawn on the queenside, the e-pawn is blockaded, and my janky third-rank rook and knight barrier actually keep the checkmates at bay well enough). While the engine still proclaims a huge advantage to White, it can be a bit frustrating to play. And Mac was getting low on time... } 35. Qe2 Rh4 36. Rg6 Rxg6 { 36...Rhxh5?? 37. Rxe6! Rh1+ 38. Kb2 Rxe6 39. Qe4+ would have been a nifty way for White to finally put me out of my misery. I have no doubt this was Mac's plan, so I'm glad I saw this and picked a non-blundery way to recoup one of the many pawns I was down. } 37. hxg6+ Kxg6 38. Qb5 Kf5 39. Qxb6 g5 { So now White has his goal--two queenside passed pawns--but Black has a dangerous passed pawn of his own. I was starting to feel like I'd actually have a chance, particularly in light of the upcoming time scramble. } 40. a4 { A gift. Time trouble hits right away. } 40... Rxa4 { Now the engine doesn't even say White is appreciably better. (Of course there's still time for me to conveniently fork away my rook) } 41. Qf2+ Rf4 42. Qg2 Kxe5 { Got 'em all back! } 43. Kc1 g4 44. Kd2 Nc5 45. Ke3 Rf3+ 46. Ke2 Rf4 47. Qh2 { Given the match situation, where every NJ player needed to win for their team to advance, of course Mac can't take a repetition. With just four seconds left on his clock (I had 21) he needs to find a way to play for a win... } 47... Ne4?? { ...and I give it to him! } 48. Qh5+ { 48. Ke3! g3 (of course my intention behind 47...Ne4), but now White has 49. Qh5+ Rf5 50. Qe8+, winning the knight by skewer. Of course, to be fair to Mac (and myself), this is some fancy queen footwork to see in split seconds. } 48... Rf5 49. Qh8+ { Should have just taken the g4 pawn, but I'm sure we both had the lingering feeling that White should have had been able to force something crazy with some crazy queen footwork, and Mac's intuition was probably leading him to try to find it. } 49... Kf4 50. Qb8+ Kg5 51. Qg8+ Kf4 52. Qb8+ Kg5 53. Ke3 { Again, I was fine with a repetition but under the circumstances it was unacceptable for Mac. } 53... Nf6 54. Qd8 g3 55. Qd6 Kg4 { But now if either side is making progress it is Black. } 56. Qd4+ Kh3 57. Qd1 g2 { Black's pieces ended up being chased into position to support the g-pawn and somehow, Black should be winning. } 58. Ke2 Re5+ { If I really just wanted the draw, 58...Rf1 nets it immediately (via the immediate 59. Qxf1 or 59. Qd3+ Kh2 60. Qd6+ Kh1 61. Qc6 Kh2). } 59. Kf2 Ng4+ 60. Kf3 Re3+ 61. Kf4 Rg3 62. Qg1 Nh2 63. c4 Rf3+ 64. Ke4 Rf1 65. Qe3+ Nf3 66. Qh6+ Kg3? { 66...Nh4 and the checks will soon run out, whereupon Black will promote and win. But I too was practically out of time, and I knew that all we needed was a draw. So under the circumstances, while I wish I were a stronger chess player capable of quickly seeing the right moves, I'm glad I went for the practical decision and didn't somehow find a weird way to checkmate myself or something while trying to play for a needless win. } 67. Qf4+ Kh3 68. Qh6+ Kg3 69. Qf4+ Kh3 70. Qh6+ { Draw by repetition. } 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Virginia and California-South entered with some heavy firepower on the top boards: Virginia had two FMs and a NM, while California-South had IMs on boards 1 and 2. The match was tight after two rounds, but Virginia produced a great third round and scored 3.5 points from those four games, including wins against both IMs. Virginia went on to hold this lead, winning by a final score of 9.5-6.5.    


[pgn][Event "2020 States Chess Cup"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2020.11.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Morefield, Jason P"]
[Black "Kiewra, Keaton"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D35"]
[Annotator "jason"]
[PlyCount "109"]

1. d4 {My opponent was Board 1 for his team and had been playing consistently
well throughout the States Chess Cup, so I determined going into this game
that I would be happy with any result that wasn't a loss. However, this didn't
mean I would play for a draw, far from it...} d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5
Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 c5 7. a3 g6 $5 {I had only discovered the existence of
this move about half an hour before the match began, so needless to say I was
grateful for the time I spent preparing that day! I went with what I had
determined was the most principled response.} 8. Nf3 Bg7 9. h4 Nc6 10. e5 h6
11. Bd3 b6 12. Be3 Bb7 {Here the position can be said to be roughly balanced,
although White has a bit of an edge. However, my next move was a mistake that
showed how unfamiliar I was with this structure.} 13. h5 $6 g5 {The reason
this move is a mistake is twofold. Firstly, Black has the additional
possibility of ...g4, undermining my center. Secondly, I no longer have the
ability to pressure the pawn on h6, and it's entirely possible that my pawn on
h5 simply becomes weak. My control over the b1-h7 diagonal isn't as important
as I initially thought it was.} 14. Qe2 cxd4 15. cxd4 g4 $2 {The computer
marks this pawn grab as a mistake.} 16. Nd2 $2 {And this as well!} (16. Nh4 $1
{The computer strongly prefers this move, but the reason why is not at all
clear until it is examined more thoroughly.} Nxd4 17. Qxg4 Bxe5 {So what
happens if Black plays like he did in the game!} 18. Rd1 $1 {For one thing,
Rd1 comes with a threat that is not easily defended against.} Nc6 19. O-O Qe7
20. Be4 Bf6 21. Ng6 $3 {Another reason is that Ng6 is a possibility now! So
the reason the computer prefers Nh4 becomes clear: the pawn grab Black did in
the game is too risky when White can sacrifice a knight to g6, so he has to
leave his pawn on g4 vulnerable, giving White an edge. Although there are more
variations, I will not go too in-depth here as it was just a rapid game.})
16... Nxd4 17. Qxg4 Bxe5 18. Rd1 {I played this move because I was concerned
about Nf3+ ideas and I wanted to pressure the center. Black has only one move
after this which retains his advantage, which neither I nor my opponent was
able to find in the game.} Nc6 $6 {Retreating gives White a chance to activate
his pieces and obtain actual compensation for the missing pawn.} (18... Ke7 $1
{This would have been best, stopping any Bb5+ ideas forever and threatening
Rg8. However, such a move is difficult to see when you are still considering
castling queenside as a viable option. Black would have a small advantage here,
although White would have good practical chances.}) 19. Nc4 Bc3+ 20. Kf1 Qe7
21. Be4 Ne5 $6 {This move is dubious because of what was played in the game.
However, exchanging pieces when under attack is a very natural thing to try,
especially when it comes with an attack on the queen.} 22. Nxe5 Bxe5 23. Bxb7
Qxb7 24. Bxh6 $1 {This is most likely what my opponent missed.} Rd8 $4 {
This should have lost on the spot, but with the game approaching time-trouble 
(which in a rapid game means only a few minutes are left for the entire rest
of the game) I was unable to find the precise refutation.} (24... Rxh6 25. Qg8+
Ke7 26. Qg5+ Rf6 27. Qxe5 Qc6 {This is more or less what I expected. Here
White is better thanks to his passed h-pawn, but Black is fighting.}) 25. Rxd8+
Kxd8 26. Bg7 Bxg7 27. Qxg7 Re8 28. h6 $2 (28. Rh4 $1 {This last precise move
stops Qd5 and guarantees two things: that White has a few more moves before
Black generates real counterplay, and that Kg1-h2 is now a viable option. This
is all he needs to convert the win.}) 28... Qd5 $1 {Now Black obtains actual
counterplay and White's win becomes very complicated.} 29. Qg4 Qe5 30. g3 Ke7
31. h7 Rh8 32. Rh5 Qc3 33. a4 $2 {At this point Black should have been able to
force a perpetual check, and for the next few moves he correctly does so.} Qc1+
34. Kg2 Qc6+ 35. Kg1 Qc1+ 36. Kh2 Qc2 37. Qg5+ Kd7 38. Qg7 $5 {With ten
seconds on the clock this try is as good as any other.} Qxf2+ 39. Kh3 Qf1+ 40.
Kh4 Qh1+ 41. Kg5 Qd5+ {With slightly less than a minute left my opponent
blitzed out this move, which is a game-losing blunder for reasons I was able
to demonstrate in the game.} 42. Kh6 Qd2+ 43. Qg5 Qc2 44. Kg7 $1 {The h-pawn
is defended and the rook is under attack!} Qc8 45. Qb5+ $1 Ke7 46. Qb4+ $1 Kd7
47. Rh2 $1 {After having defended the f8-square so as not to allow counterplay,
my king on g7 is one hundred percent safe and I am starting a mating attack on
Black's king!} e5 48. Rd2+ Ke6 49. Qd6+ {White now has a multitude of ways to
win, I just chose the first one I saw because we were both below ten seconds
at this point.} Kf5 50. Qf6+ Ke4 51. Re2+ Kd4 52. Qxe5+ Kd3 53. Qe3+ Kc4 54.
Rc2+ Kd5 55. Rxc8 {Overall there were a few mistakes from both sides, but this
was an exceptionally entertaining, close, and surprisingly accurate rapid game!
} 1-0 [/pgn]

Iowa and Illinois both featured balanced lineups, with the difference between Iowa’s boards 1 and 4 only 123 points. Illinois had lost to Iowa in the regular season but was determined to flip the script in playoffs, and entered the fourth and final round with a 6.5-5.5 advantage. The States Cup saw another come-from-behind finish, however, with Iowa winning 3.5/4 games in the last round to advance. Iowa was led by a 4-0 performance by NM Joseph Wan on the top board, and NMs Tim McEntee and Kushan Tyagi also produced critical victories, scoring 2.5/4 and 2/4 respectively.    

[pgn][Event "2020 SCC"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.11.23"] [Round "8.3"] [White "NM Wan, Joseph (IA)"] [Black "NM Kalghatgi, Nikhil (IL)"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B06"] [WhiteElo "2257"] [BlackElo "2245"] [Annotator "Wan, Joseph"] [PlyCount "111"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.11.23"] {Playoff time! I once again took first board against Illinois, as NM Arshaq Saleem (2276) was unavailable for the match. Previously in the regular season, Iowa had defeated Illinois 8.5-7.5- in reality 8.5-6.5 because IL had a penalty point- in a tight match. Last time they had come with a roster of 2400, 2350, 1900, 1900. Now we were in the first round of the playoffs, with the loser going home. Illinois fielded a more balanced lineup. This was the round 3 game I played vs. NM Nikhil Kalghatgi (2245).} 1. e4 g6 {In a previous OTB game I played vs. Nikhil in the 2019 National High School Championship, he had opted for the Sicilian Defense (2... e6). I had seen in his rapid online games that he was playing 1... g6 a lot, so I decided to do my normal thing against it and not panic.} 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 a6 {Quite interesting and unexpected. This is an early ... a6. I know that Black can play the Tiger Modern, so I had expected the game to tranpose into it after my 4. f4.} 4. f4 d5 $5 {Now this move I had not expected. On the surface it just loses a pawn, but Black's pressure on "d4" is good to win back the pawn should White take with the knight. If White takes with the pawn, then the doubled pawns are weak and Black will get rapid development and eventually win back the pawn starting with 5... Nf6.} 5. e5 $5 (5. Nxd5 {The computer actually gives this as the best move, but after a minute of thinking, I had rejected this.} e6 6. Ne3 Qxd4 7. Qxd4 Bxd4 8. Nf3 Ba7 9. Bd2 $14 {With a position that's slightly better for White. However, I didn't really want an endgame this early in the game, and decided to keep the game spicy. The text move is by no means bad, just a different approach of the game.}) 5... Nh6 6. Be3 O-O 7. Nf3 Bg4 $6 {I was pretty happy when I saw this move, as it just speeds up my kingside attack by giving me 8. h3 with a tempo, which in turn supports an eventual g4 advance. Also, I knew that I would be getting the bishop pair.} (7... f6 8. h3 fxe5 9. dxe5 e6 10. Qd2 b6 11. g4 c5 12. Bg2 Ra7 $14) 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 e6 10. g4 { The attack begins! Black actually finds himself getting into a lot of trouble pretty soon, as the pawn storm proves to be very deadly.} f6 11. exf6 Qxf6 12. O-O-O (12. g5 $4 Qxg5 13. fxg5 Rxf3 14. gxh6 Rxe3+ $1 15. Kd2 Bxh6 $19) 12... Nf7 13. h4 {As GM Yasser Seirawan would say (although I think he said this about passed pawns, but it applies here too), "Push em baby!"} c6 14. g5 $1 { First pushing the Black queen back, so that h5 cannot be met with ... g5!} Qe7 15. Qh3 $1 {The immediate 15. h5 is met with 15... Nxg5, so White shifts the queen to the "h" file first. This will win material as Black is powerless to stop the brutal massacre down the rook file.} Nd6 16. h5 Nf5 17. hxg6 $6 { A slight mistake.} ({Better} 17. Bd3 $1 {keeping the tension and shifting the knight over to the kingside first. However, I saw a different way of winning material and gunned hard for it.}) 17... hxg6 18. Qh7+ Kf7 19. Rh6 $1 {My point. The threat of 20. Qxg6+ is very hard to deal with.} Nxh6 $2 {This just loses a lot of material, but the position was hard.} (19... Ke8 20. Qxg6+ Qf7 21. Qxf7+ Rxf7 22. Rh3 $16 {White is up a pawn, but Black seems to have survived the worst of the storm.}) 20. gxh6 Qf6 21. Bd3 $6 ({Keeping up the pressure with} 21. hxg7 Qxg7 22. Qh3 {was easier, with the bishop coming to "d3" and rook coming to "g1". Keeping the queens on the board would've preserved much more chances to win by direct attack rather than the endgame grind. However, I was pretty comfortable transitioning into the endgame now, as I knew I had little chances of losing and all the chances of winning with my material advantage of two minors for a rook.}) 21... Rh8 22. Qxg7+ Qxg7 23. hxg7 Kxg7 24. Rg1 Nd7 25. Rxg6+ Kf7 $18 {We have now reached the endgame phase. White has two bishops for a rook, and should be winning the endgame. However, it must still be won.} 26. b3 {I wasn't entirely comfortable with Black having the option of the back rank checks, so I decided to create a "luft" for my king, where it would be safely sheltered on "b2" away from any tricks.} Rag8 { Black offers to exchange off White's active rook, which he can't avoid.} 27. Rg5 {But if we're gonna exchange rooks, I want to do it on my terms. This entices Black to capture my rook, which in turn would give me a strong passed "g" pawn.} Rh1+ 28. Kb2 {Making good use of the square.} Rh3 29. Bd2 Rh2 30. Be3 Nf6 31. f5 {I decided to open the position up, as my dark squared bishop isn't really doing anything. I also had future visions of my light squared bishop being able to nip on the base of Black's pawn chain on "c8" in the future.} Rxg5 {Now that White can't get a passed pawn by recapturing anymore, Black trades the rooks.} 32. fxe6+ Kxe6 33. Bxg5 b5 34. a3 Rg2 35. Bf4 Ng4 36. Bb8 {At this point, I wasn't quite sure what the winning plan was, although I was still very confident in my position. I decided to shuffle around for a bit and reposition my pieces.} Ne3 37. Ne2 Kd7 38. Be5 Kc8 39. a4 $1 {The beginning of the correct winning plan, putting pressure on the Black pawn mass (Black cannot play 39... bxa4 because of 40. Bxa6+ followed by 41. bxa4), as well as opening up the "a3" square for eventual use by the king.} Kb7 40. Nf4 Nd1+ $6 {I don't really understand the point of this move, as this only drives my king where it wants to go.} 41. Ka3 $1 {Forward, not backward!} Rg1 42. a5 $1 {Now Kb4 is firmly safe, as Black cannot push the king out nor trade pawns with ... bxa4.} Nf2 43. Kb4 Rc1 44. c3 Nd1 45. Ne6 {The White pieces close in for the kill. Seeing the "c" pawn is undefendable, I create threats of my own.} Nb2 {The "c" pawn is actually not able to be captured, as something will fall.} (45... Rxc3 $2 46. Nc5+ Ka7 47. Bf4 $18 {And the Black rook is trapped!}) ( 45... Nxc3 $4 46. Bf4 $1 $18) 46. Bf5 {Black's king is actually close to being checkmated here. White aims to win the "a6" pawn and march his "a" pawn to the 8th rank.} Ka7 47. Nc5 Ra1 48. Bc7 Rf1 49. Bd7 Rf6 50. Bb6+ Ka8 51. Nxa6 Nd3+ 52. Ka3 Kb7 53. Nc5+ Nxc5 54. dxc5 {Setting up a nifty mate :)} Rf3 55. a6+ $1 Kxa6 56. Bc8# {What a beautiful finish! A key game in Iowa's eventual 9-7 takedown of Illinois- I started off surprised in the opening, but responded well and was soon able to generate a crushing attack on the kingside which won me material. As I transitioned into the endgame, I used my minor pieces effectively to shut down all play from the rook, ensuring victory.} 1-0 [/pgn]

Both California-North and Washington featured strong top boards. With two 2400-strength players, California-North jumped to a quick 3-1 score after the first round and maintained that lead through round two. Washington however, featuring three National Masters, turned the match around by scoring 6.5/8 over the last two rounds, advancing from the quarterfinals as the only upset win.     


Down to four teams, Michigan took an early 3-1 lead in the first round of its match with Virginia, including a big upset win by 1841-rated Ryan Wang against FM Jason Morefield in mutual time trouble. Virginia fans hoping for another comeback were left disappointed, however, as Michigan held that lead through the last three rounds to win the match 9.5-6.5 and secure its spot in the finals.  


[pgn][Event "1st States Chess Cup"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.11.08"] [Round "?"] [White "Canty, James"] [Black "Morefield, Jason"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B08"] [Annotator "jason"] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] {[%evp 0,48,26,26,75,79,74,64,84,90,90,60,63,60,61,59,71,9,-9,-1,22,11,11,-24, -28,-43,47,57,45,55,58,-48,56,59,72,-54,-100,-717,-401,-461,-29988,-29989, -29990,-29991,-29992,-29993,-29994,-29995,-29996,-29997,-29998]} 1. e4 { Going into this game, we were behind in the match and I needed a win with Black to keep our chances alive.} d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. h3 O-O 6. Be3 c6 7. a4 {White's setup may seem unassuming, but it actually has a lot of venom, as will soon be shown.} Qc7 8. e5 $5 {This move more or less commits to the following pawn sacrifice.} (8. Be2 {This is a more typical move, which will usually lead to an interesting strategic game after} e5 {, which is what I was hoping for.}) 8... dxe5 9. dxe5 Nfd7 10. e6 fxe6 {In exchange for the pawn, Black has doubled isolated e-pawns and his development is impeded. However, all my opponent cared about was the 'hook' on g6, which he could use to open up my Kingside. Usually White plays for positional compensation here, but my opponent went for mate.} 11. h4 Nf6 {This seemed natural to me, but the next move was more difficult.} 12. h5 Nd5 $5 (12... Nxh5 13. Rxh5 {By no means forced, but clearly the most natural move.} gxh5 {White's huge lead in development and my weakened Kingside made me not want to go into this position. Although Black is fine in theory, I naturally went for the counterattack, which in this case turned out to be incorrect.}) 13. hxg6 Nxe3 {My idea behind Nd5. However, my opponent soon demonstrated a serious problem.} 14. gxh7+ Kh8 15. Nh4 $3 {I had entirely missed this move.} (15. fxe3 Qg3+ {After these moves it's Black who has compensation for a pawn, and he doesn't really have to worry about king safety as long as the knight can't get to g6.}) 15... Rf6 { I didn't want to play this move, but I didn't have much of a choice.} (15... Nxd1 16. Ng6# {This wouldn't have been a great way to end the game.}) (15... Bxc3+ 16. bxc3 Nxd1 {This does net a queen, but it isn't enough!} 17. Ng6+ $1 Kg7 18. Nxf8 {White now threatens h8=Q, and there isn't much Black can do about it, so he should check.} Qe5+ 19. Kxd1 $1 {White wins. Black's queen is too ineffective to stop White's pawn.} (19. Be2 $4 {This move actually loses.} Qxc3+ 20. Kf1 Ne3+ $1 {Black will get both rooks, after which White can say goodbye to his h-pawn.})) 16. Qh5 $6 (16. fxe3 {This would be better than Qh5, since it wouldn't allow me the chance I had on my next move. White is clearly better but Black has play.}) 16... Bd7 $2 (16... Nxc2+ 17. Kd1 Bd7 18. Kxc2 Na6 {This would have been better than the game simply because White's king is actually weak. The all-knowing computer gives "0.00" after Ng6+, but nothing is clear from a practical standpoint.}) 17. Qf7 $4 {The game-losing blunder. The queen is immune because of Ng6, and White is threatening Qg8 mate, but Black has a surprisingly strong defensive resource.} (17. fxe3 Qg3+ 18. Kd2 { White is still better here because his pieces are better coordinated, but Canty wanted more. Unfortunately for him, that wasn't possible.}) 17... Na6 $1 {Defending g8 and h8, both of which are important.} 18. Ne4 $6 {Going for broke, but Black has enough resources to deal with it. However, we're already past the point of no return.} (18. Qxf6 Bxf6 19. Ng6+ Kg7 20. h8=Q+ Rxh8 { This was something I had to be concerned about, and fortunately Na6 was enough to defend against it.}) (18. Qg8+ Rxg8 {The (more obvious) reason why g8 was important.}) (18. fxe3 Qg3+ $1 19. Kd2 Rxf7 {Now g6 is defended and Black's just up a queen.}) 18... Qe5 $1 {Suddenly White is reminded that his king can also be attacked!} 19. Nxf6 {Admitting defeat (Black has forced mate after this move) but there wasn't much better. After all, White was down a piece!} Nxg2+ 20. Kd2 Bh6+ $1 {The key move I had to see before playing Qe5. Now White has to bring his king into the center and cannot avoid mate.} 21. Kd3 Nc5+ 22. Kc4 b5+ 23. Kb4 Qxb2+ 24. Kxc5 Qc3+ {If Black did a single non-check, Qg8 mate would win. As it is, he's the one mated. This win kept our team in the match, although we ended up losing nonetheless. Overall, this is definitely the craziest game I've played in the SCC!} 0-1 [/pgn]

Washington and Iowa had a combined six National Masters and one International Master, virtually guaranteeing some high-quality games. The match was back and forth with each round, with Iowa scoring 2.5/4 in the first round, Washington scoring 3/4 in the second round, and Iowa repeating 2.5/4 in the third. However, Washington took the match after scoring 2.5/4 in the final round, advancing to the finals.  


Washington vs. Michigan in the States Cup Championship
Image Caption
After 10 weeks of play by nearly 30 state teams, Washington and Michigan met in the 2020 States Cup Championship.

After 10 weeks of hard-fought chess through a regular season and playoff bracket, the States Cup was at last down to two final teams: Washington and Michigan. Both teams submitted top-heavy lineups, with Washington sending three NMs and an Expert; and Michigan with an FM, two NMs, and a Class-A player.  

After splitting the first round, both Washington NMs Derek Zhang and NM Rushaan Mahajan scored wins in the second round, though Michigan held winning positions on the other two boards and appeared to be heading toward round equalization. But Washington top board NM Kyle Haining pulled out a draw in a wild time scramble with Michigan NM Tony Nichols, and Advaith Vijayakumar did one better – first turning a losing position into a drawn endgame, then walking away with the full point after a mouse slip by his opponent NM James Canty.    


[pgn][Event "States Chess Cup Annotated Games (Heiman"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.11.21"] [Round "?"] [White "Heimann"] [Black "Rushaan"] [Result "*"] [ECO "D01"] [Annotator ""] [PlyCount "156"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] {[%evp 0,156,36,18,30,18,18,-10,19,-7,-5,-27,7,-2,-2,-2,-2,5,37,28,61,2,31,29, 29,18,28,31,33,24,32,30,30,22,38,38,74,26,67,67,79,70,66,34,36,21,41,17,53,27, 63,72,67,19,19,-106,23,22,22,22,22,30,25,27,25,16,9,18,19,11,20,0,13,0,0,0,-3, -9,-1,-8,-12,-5,7,7,12,18,22,22,22,22,50,50,42,41,44,40,37,10,15,20,61,35,19, 13,11,14,1,0,0,-14,-14,-10,-7,-6,-6,-6,-6,-88,-80,-88,-88,-101,-99,-102,-70, -88,-97,-96,-96,-96,-79,-78,-70,-82,-18,-16,-13,-46,-7,-6,-5,-6,-6,-8,-7,-6,-6, -6,-6,-6,-6,-959,-969,-989,-992,-992,-1002,-1022,-1022] My opponent was a talented 13 year old master from WA. Brings back memories of my good old days--or as they say, what comes around goes around!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 { I played a really fun Veresov last week in the semifinals, so I figured why not have another go.} d5 3. Bg5 c6 {Nothing wrong with playing solidly like this, but White can double Black's pawns at any point, and my personal preference is to not give Veresov players what they probably want so easily (3. ..Nbd7).} 4. Qd2 Bf5 5. f3 h6 6. Bxf6 exf6 7. e4 dxe4 8. fxe4 Be6 {I get that Black has free development and the bishop papir, and can play for pawn breaks or piece pressure against my center. Still, letting me get in e4 and have the center like this probably really is giving me what I want though, with less fuss than Black could have mounted.} 9. Nf3 Be7 10. Bd3 Bg4 11. Ne2 O-O 12. O-O {Probably should have castled queenside. I didn't want to take many risks, because I could feel that for whatever reason(s), my focus seemed to be poorer than I'd like and my decision making seemed a bit sluggish. (For example, I was already starting to fall somewhat behind on the clock, without a particularly good explanation for doing so.)} Nd7 {Again, I think Black could play more energetically with 12...c5, and all of a sudden my center does seem a bit rickety.} 13. c3 Qc7 14. Qf4 {Again, I wanted to slow down the pace of the game to match my own psychological pace at the time, but this was probably not the most testing way to play on my part. I'm more likely to be able to play aggressively, so might as well keep the queens on.} Qxf4 15. Nxf4 Bd6 16. Nd2 g5 $6 {The f-pawns may not be the end of the world, but I'd be very reluctant to saddle myself with such long-term weaknesses without a very good reason in mind, which I don't see for Black (and were not revealed by the next several moves).} 17. Ne2 Rfe8 18. Rae1 Rad8 19. Nc4 Bc7 20. Ne3 Be6 21. Nc1 $6 {Kind of passive and takes its eye off the f4 square. I didn't think this would be a problem and thought it would be just fine if Black wanted to trade off his bishop pair, but I didn't foresee everything that could happen on the e-file. Something like 21. Bc2 would have been better (21...Bxa2 22. b3)} Bf4 22. g3 Bxe3+ 23. Rxe3 Kg7 {23...c5! and now the pin on the e-file stops me from going d5, so once Black exchanges on d4 then both rooks will be well-placed to put pressure on my center.} 24. Nb3 Re7 25. Kg2 Rde8 26. Ref3 { I thought I was out of the woods regarding pins, because all my rooks were off the e-file. Right?} f5 {Wrong. There are also diagonals to pin me on (27. exf5 Bd5) A nice opportunity spotted by Rushaan to off-load the "long-term" weakness I mentioned earlier.} 27. Nd2 {With the idea 27...fxe4 28. Nxe4 Bd5 29. Nd6, and although I give up an exchange on f3, I win it back with the fork of the rook on e8 and the threat to fork again on f5.} f6 {Humorous. It's still tough for me to relieve the tension, because I can't take on f5 yet (unless I want to sacrifice an exchange).} 28. Kg1 {OK, finally I'm threatening exf5 without giving up an exchange, so the tension has to be relieved now.} fxe4 29. Nxe4 Bh3 {Uncovering an attack on e4, and of course I wouldn't want to walk into a pin on the e-file to defend the knight with 30. Re1. But we both doubtless anticipated the same Nd6 motif mentioned earlier, which just results in some even material exchanges.} 30. Nd6 Bxf1 31. Nxe8+ Rxe8 32. Kxf1 Nb6 {I was hoping to nurse something out of a bishop versus knight and black's backward f-pawn, but Rushaan played more energetically than I and never let those possible advantages meaningfully materialize.} 33. Rf2 Nd5 34. Re2 Ne3+ {It takes some nerves to self-pin your own knight, but Rushaan correctly saw his night had enough checks to give my king if I tried to exploit it (many that are also pawn-winning forks). I started realizing I was not going to be better.} 35. Ke1 Kf8 36. h3 {Consistent with my earlier intuition, I wanted to lock down Black's kingside, but again, Rushaan wouldn't give me the time to make that happen.} Kf7 37. g4 Ng2+ 38. Kf2 Rxe2+ 39. Bxe2 Nf4 {And now White doesn't have time to defend the h-pawn and maneuver a bishop or king to further control f5. Black will trade off his backward f-pawn and likely get an outside passed pawn on the kingside. White is not winning this endgame.} 40. Bc4+ Kg6 41. Kg3 f5 42. Bb3 Kf6 43. Bc2 fxg4 44. hxg4 h5 { There it goes. White's last kingside pawn disappears, and even if Black were to lose the g-pawn it probably wouldn't be enough for white to win on the queenside alone. Granted, White should probably be able to stop the g-pawn and the game should be a draw, but ya know, with my decision making being what it was, we can't necessarily count on even that.} 45. gxh5 Nxh5+ 46. Kg4 Nf4 47. Be4 Ne6 48. d5 cxd5 49. Bxd5 Nd8 {I hoped I could make something of the corralled knight, but of course not. I don't have enough other pieces or time to take any advantage of it.} 50. c4 b6 51. b4 Ne6 {At this point I saw that 52. Bxe6 Kxe6 53. Kxg5 should be a draw. 53...Kxe5 54. c5, and I force the trade of all but Black's rook pawns. Black will win all my queenside pawns but my king will come easily to trap the king on the side of the board. This is where I blame my poor decision making--I still hoped that somehow my Rushaan would blunder and I'd win, although there really aren't many other ways for him to go catastrophically wrong and there are ways for me to mess up with the outside passed pawn and his king having direct access to the queenside. I should have just accepted my fate instead of leaving open the theoretical possibility of a win that would never happen, at the objectively greater risk of an L that I could immediately avoid.} 52. a3 $2 {Because there was no point in not taking on e6 and immediately sealing the (fair) final result. Obviously, an ironic move to tacitly "play for a win" with.} Nf4 53. Bf3 Nd3 54. Be2 Ne5+ 55. Kg3 Kf5 {And just a few moves later I had to admit that it was time to try to bail out.} 56. c5 bxc5 57. bxc5 Ke6 58. c6 Nxc6 59. Kg4 Kf6 60. Bb5 Ne5+ 61. Kg3 Ng6 62. Ba6 Ne5 {At this point, I should try to rush my a-pawn as far up the board as possible (without losing it) so that Black's a-pawn will be able to advance as little as possible. This would help me in the likely event that Black jettisons his g-pawn and rushes over to win my a-pawn. 63. a4 makes sense (though I should be careful about advancing it to a5 while my bishop is on a6, less Black traps it on a5 and wins it for free with the knight).} 63. Bb5 Ke7 64. Kf2 Kd6 65. Ke3 Kc5 66. a4 Nc4+ 67. Kf3 Nd6 68. Bd7 Kb4 {And now we pretty much have it as discussed: Black will try to win my a-pawn and advance his own while shouldering off my bishop with his knight. My king will be on the other side of the board and it will be a long route back. However, if I am careful, I should be able to buy my king time, as Black's a-pawn has a long way to advance and multiple light squares where it will need to get past my bishop.} 69. Kg4 Nc4 70. Kxg5 Nb6 71. Be6 $2 {For some reason, I thought that a2 was the only square where I could mount a defense, but obviously by guarding a4, I could make Black have to take a few extra moves to maneuver his knight to b5 before advancing his pawn past a4. This move isn't a blunder, but it shows again that my analysis and decision making was clearly not up to snuff tonight.} Nxa4 72. Kf4 Nc5 73. Bf7 a5 74. Ke3 {Threatening to bring my king to the corner via d2, so Black has to shoulder it off.} Kc3 75. Ke2 $4 { Like I said, I completely forgot about the possibility of controlling a4, and so I thought I had lost as by this point I saw that black's king would keep mine out. (75. Be8, and as I finally saw right after playing Ke2, and the position is a clear draw. Black's knight will need to block my bishop's access to the a4 square to prevent me from sacrificing it for Black's remaining pawn, but it can't do that without the king coming back to support it and letting my king to the corner where it will easily defend.)} a4 {and now it's over. On b2, the king can keep my king away from the queening square and help the knight shoulder off my bishop.} 76. Kd1 Kb2 77. Kd2 a3 78. Bg8 Nb3+ {White resigned (79. Bxb3 Kxb3 80. Kc1 a2 and the black pawn is just in time to hedge off its own path to coronation). Congratulations to Rushaan, who had a great night beyond this round, and to the Washington team, who routed us 3.5-0.5 in this round and put us in a hole from which we could not recover.} * [/pgn]

Michigan scored 3/4 in the third round to cut into the deficit, but in the fourth Washington held its lead by winning the two boards with a rating advantage, and drawing the two boards with a disadvantage.  

[pgn][Event "Casual Rapid game"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.11.15"] [White "GMcanty"] [Black "D-Z"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2376"] [WhiteTitle "NM"] [BlackElo "2572"] [TimeControl "900+2"] [Termination "Normal"] [UTCDate "2020.11.18"] [UTCTime "23:34:04"] [Variant "Standard"] [ECO "C00"] [Opening "French Defense: King's Indian Attack"] [Annotator ""] 1. e4 { [%clk 0:15:00] } e6 { [%clk 0:15:00] } 2. d3 { I had expected the game to go into a French Winawer. 2. d3 was an unpleasant surprise. } { [%clk 0:14:57] } 2... d5 { [%clk 0:14:16] } 3. Nd2 { [%clk 0:14:59] } b6 { [%clk 0:14:05] } 4. g3 { [%clk 0:14:51] } dxe4 { [%clk 0:13:59] } 5. dxe4 { [%clk 0:14:48] } Bb7 { [%clk 0:13:54] } 6. Bg2 { [%clk 0:14:49] } a5 { [%clk 0:12:46] } 7. Ne2 { [%clk 0:14:39] } Bc5 { [%clk 0:12:38] } 8. O-O { [%clk 0:14:35] } a4?! { Over-extending. } { [%clk 0:12:34] } (8... e5!? $10) 9. a3 { [%clk 0:14:28] } Ne7 { [%clk 0:12:27] } 10. b4 { [%clk 0:14:23] } axb3 { [%clk 0:12:09] } 11. cxb3 { [%clk 0:14:25] } O-O { [%clk 0:11:49] } 12. Bb2 { [%clk 0:14:26] } Nec6 { [%clk 0:09:32] } 13. b4 { [%clk 0:13:22] } Be7 { [%clk 0:09:30] } 14. f4 { [%clk 0:13:08] } Qd3 { [%clk 0:07:30] } 15. Rf3 { [%clk 0:12:55] } Qd8 { [%clk 0:07:16] } (15... Qd7!? 16. Qc2 Rd8 17. Nb3 Na7 { Despite a severe lack of space, at least black owns the d-file here. }) 16. Qc2 { James did a great job of keeping pressure on me throughout the game, both on the board and on the clock. I was already down to 7 minutes here, while James had nearly 13 minutes and a dominant position. } { [%clk 0:12:43] } 16... Nd7 { [%clk 0:05:23] } 17. Rd1 { [%clk 0:10:48] } Rc8 { [%clk 0:05:17] } 18. Rd3 { [%clk 0:10:34] } Qe8 { [%clk 0:05:15] } 19. e5 { [%clk 0:10:23] } Ndb8? { [%clk 0:04:42] } (19... Bxb4! 20. axb4 Nxb4 21. Qb1 Bxg2 22. Rb3 Bb7 23. Rxb4 Nc5 $14 { Black has good chances here due to white's exposed king and strength of the light-squared bishop on the long diagonal. }) 20. g4 { [%clk 0:09:03] } Bxb4 { [%clk 0:03:41] } 21. Rh3 { [%clk 0:08:47] } Bc5+ { [%clk 0:03:29] } 22. Kh1 { [%clk 0:08:41] } g6?! { [%clk 0:03:26] } (22... h6 23. g5 Rd8 24. gxh6 g6! { Surprisingly, white has nothing here. Unfortunately I missed this idea in the game. }) 23. Ne4 { [%clk 0:08:42] } Be7 { [%clk 0:03:04] } 24. Nf6+?! { Premature. Better was Qc1 with the idea of f5 and Qh6. } { [%clk 0:08:43] } 24... Bxf6 { [%clk 0:03:04] } 25. exf6 { [%clk 0:08:45] } Na5 { [%clk 0:02:04] } 26. Bxb7 { [%clk 0:08:31] } Nxb7 { [%clk 0:02:06] } 27. Nd4 { [%clk 0:08:33] } e5 { Here, I was down to just 26 seconds, compared to James' 8 minutes. However, instead of taking the time to find a crushing continuation, James made the mistake of continuing to play quickly to try to pressure me on the clock. In he haste, he blundered immediately. } { [%clk 0:00:27] } 28. Qf2?? { [%clk 0:08:03] } (28. fxe5 Nd7 (28... Qxe5 29. Nf5 Qf4 30. Ne7+ Kh8 31. Nxg6+ fxg6 32. f7+ Qf6 33. Bxf6#) 29. Nf5 Nxe5 30. Ne7+ Kh8 31. Qf2 { And mate is unstoppable. }) 28... exd4 { [%clk 0:00:10] } 29. Qh4 { [%clk 0:08:04] } Qe4+ { [%clk 0:00:11] } 30. Kg1 { [%clk 0:08:05] } h5?? { With 10 seconds on the clock, I blunder back. However, moving quickly despite still having 8 minutes on the clock, James again misses a winning continuation. } { [%clk 0:00:12] } (30... g5! 31. Qxg5+ Qg6 $19) 31. Qg5?? { [%clk 0:08:05] } (31. gxh5 Qe2 32. Rf1 $18) 31... Qe2 { [%clk 0:00:10] } (31... Nc5! 32. Qh6 Ne6 $19) 32. Qh6 { [%clk 0:06:53] } Qxd1+ { [%clk 0:00:11] } 33. Kf2 { [%clk 0:06:43] } Qd2+ { [%clk 0:00:12] } 34. Kg3 { [%clk 0:06:11] } Qe1+ { [%clk 0:00:13] } 35. Kf3 { I briefly noticed that Qf1 was a possibility, but with the seconds counting down and knowing that a draw would clinch (at worst) a tied match and subsequent blitz tiebreaker, I took the three-fold repetition without a second thought. } { [%clk 0:05:34] } 35... Qe3+ { [%clk 0:00:14] } (35... Qf1+ { Mate is forced. } 36. Kg3 Qg1+ 37. Kf3 hxg4+ 38. Ke2 Rfe8+ 39. Kd2 Qf2+ 40. Kd3 Nc5+ 41. Kc4 Qc2+ 42. Bc3 Qb3+ 43. Kxd4 Nc6#) 36. Kg2 { [%clk 0:05:34] } Qe2+ { [%clk 0:00:16] } 37. Kg1 { [%clk 0:05:30] } Qe1+ { [%clk 0:00:17] } 38. Kg2 { [%clk 0:05:31] } Qe2+ { [%clk 0:00:18] } 39. Kg3 { [%clk 0:05:33] } Qe1+ { [%clk 0:00:19] } 40. Kg2 { [%clk 0:05:29] } Qe2+ { Objectively, James should have won. But this game's wild twists, with heavy time trouble and multiple late blunders by both sides, is reflective of the late-game and late-match excitement that States Chess Cup matches typically have! Thanks again to Saumik for organizing such a fantastic event for chess players in the time of COVID. } { [%clk 0:00:21] } 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]


Washington wins first States Chess Cup
Image Caption
Team Washington's Jacob Meyer hoists the new traveling States Chess Cup.

With this 9.5-6.5 win over Michigan, Washington became the first-ever States Chess Cup Champion, getting its name etched on the traveling championship cup. Iowa won third place over Virginia. Medals will also be sent to players from each of those final four teams as a reward for their hard-fought seasons.  

Thanks to an incredible initial response to the first States Chess Cup, a second season of the league has been announced. The league is now collecting feedback, so that it may work even better next year.